Storytelling marketing: the art of thrilling customers (2023)

Storytelling is the art of communicating by telling stories. Stories are memorable and rich in meaning, able to excite and remain impressed in our minds better than a cold list of data and facts. In marketing, this discipline has taken the name of storytelling marketing and is characterized by its ability to attract the consumer by leveraging his emotions.

It goes without saying that the brand at the center of the narrative will benefit in terms of popularity and, ultimately, will be more marketable (sometimes we even talk about corporate storytelling).

The effectiveness of narrative techniques in the service of businesses is demonstrated by the fact that the best businessmen in the world are storytellers. Just think of Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, or, looking among local entrepreneurs, the founder of Eataly Oscar Farinetti.

With the advent of the internet, storytelling marketing lands on the net, giving even small businesses the opportunity to communicate their history and values, as well as to get closer to their audience with all the power of digital channels (website, blog, social network). This is how digital storytelling marketing was born.

Storytelling marketing: definition and meaning

As we mentioned in our introduction, storytelling is the art of telling a story. But, if applied to marketing, this definition is no longer enough, as narration here becomes the means to reach a precise end: lead potential consumers to empathize. Only in this way does the story develop all its effectiveness, as it manages to bridge the gap between the brand and the viewer, involving the latter in a narrative that becomes personal (personal meaning a commonality of values between the company and the public).

the importance of storytelling marketing

The deeper meaning of storytelling marketing is therefore to communicate the brand’s personality, character, and temperament to the world or one of its products, services, lines, or ranges of products, giving meaning and coherence to every corporate event aimed at the market. Storytelling thus becomes an indispensable tool for institutional communication, helping to build a strong identity for the company.

Design storytelling

To properly set up a project on how to do storytelling it is necessary to deepen a series of aspects that we will list below:

  • Goal setting: the storytellers must first ask themself what do they want to get out of the narrative. Should the story be heard by everyone or only by a specific part of a certain audience? Depending on the case we will use different languages and metaphors. For example, if you are addressing a football expert, vocabulary or sports metaphors may be used;
  • Definition of an audience: it is essential to establish to whom we want to convey our message, in order to use the most suitable communicative register. The desire to address a teenage audience will imply the choice of an informal language and the use of digital channels frequented by a young audience (Facebook or Instagram will be preferable to LinkedIn);  
  • Story listening: a good storyteller must know how to listen to the company or if we are the company, the target audience. In this way it will be possible to understand what are the topics covered and the language used by those subjects who will then be the recipients of our storytelling activity;
  • Definition of media: one has to ask which are the most suitable media to host our story (website, blog, social media). Each digital channel has, in fact, some peculiarities that make it more or less suitable for certain topics or certain communication registers;
  • Tone of voice: it is a communication style to adopt, which translates into the embodiment of a character type capable of relating effectively to the target audience;
  • Channels to watch: the decision on which channels to monitor involves both digital (all communication tools available online) and offline (such as traditional press, but also an exhibition, etc.).
  • Story idea: in storytelling, the general concept around which the story will revolve must be defined. For example, the typical happy family, outlined by Barilla’s communication (and in this regard, Motta’s counter-narrative should also be mentioned as an idea of history, which in the Buondì advertisement destroys the happy family with an asteroid!);
  • Influencers and bloggers: you have to ask yourself who will tell the story. Companies can tell it firsthand, but they can also delegate the task to the “experts” (read bloggers). Another solution is represented by influencers, authoritative subjects for a certain type of audience. In the latter case, one must avoid communicating in a blatantly “advertising” way, adopting credible ways to convey the story;
  • Spread: it is good to consider whether a project should be shared through company web pages or through channels external to the company, by third parties (as mentioned above by bloggers or influencers);
  • Monitoring: finally, we must evaluate the impact of our history on digital and traditional channels (off-line), monitoring quantitative KPIs (key performance indicators) such as the number of likes, shares, editorial issues, etc.


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How to do storytelling marketing: anatomy of a story

The structure of a story has very precise anatomy, which passes through some key elements.

First of all, we must start from the assumption that a narrative goes beyond true or false, to arrive at the concept of likelihood: a characteristic that makes a fact conform to the truth, to the point of making it probable or credible even if it hasn’t happened, hasn’t been documented, hasn’t been expected. This will trigger the suspension of disbelief, which will allow the viewer to suspend his critical judgment to fully enjoy a work of fantasy.

To make a story plausible, the figure of the hero. It is the protagonist of the story, the one who has to face a journey (the so-called hero’s journey). The journey is a metaphorical path of growth, which takes the hero from a condition of “defeat” to one of “victory”, but which can also take the form of a change of perspective. The type of narrative feelings preferred by the target audience should always be taken into account in hero construction.

The hero’s journey must end with the achievement of an objective. The goal is achieved through the resolution of a conflict, which can be against the world (meaning an indistinct collectivity, a way of thinking, etc.), rather than against a specific person. In both cases, we are talking about an anti-hero (or antagonist).

To resolve the conflict you need a mentor or a magic item, who comes to the hero’s rescue by turning things around.

Another ingredient of the narrative is the moral, a direct message that has the precise purpose of recommending correct behavior.

The last element of a story is the final, which must be opened. Indeed, it should be emphasized that a good story is characterized by a certain amount of vagueness, which must be understood as the ability to arouse different readings and generate digressions.

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Corporate storytelling: narration enters the company

We have seen that a successful brand cannot do without an effective narrative. But what are the ingredients of corporate storytelling winning? Let’s list them below:

  • Content: first of all a company must be able to tell compelling and authentic stories, and know how to go beyond self-referential rhetoric and self-celebration;
  • Context: it is necessary to know the context in which the brand is placed. By knowledge of the context, we mean insight into the reality of the world around us. Knowing and knowing how to handle socio-cultural issues and current news has made the fortune of a brand like Ceres, which has based its web communication on a continuous game of references to the Italian reality;
  • Images: images have a fundamental importance in the narration of a brand. Indeed, a careful choice of graphic materials makes reading a web page more captivating;
  • Music: music also contributes (as we have seen for images) to entertaining and involving users, who will be more willing to dedicate time and mental resources to our content;
  • Tone of voice: we have already mentioned that a communication style consistent with one’s brand and with one’s target audience allows corporate communication to be perceived as more authentic;
  • Likelihood: being able to tell a story that the public accepts as virtually true leads to an increase in the involvement and identification of the potential consumer.

All these elements fall within and move within four key points that help build communication and, ultimately, brand identity.

We are talking about the brand promise, of the brand positioning, from the brand personality he was born in brand design.

The brand promise (brand promise)

It must be reiterated that the ultimate purpose of storytelling is to arouse emotions in the target audience, and to obtain this result it is necessary transparency, authenticity, and consistency.

A brand must be aligned with the basic values and concepts conveyed by storytelling. The brand must therefore be the story it tells. Otherwise, it betrays the relationship promise towards its public, which will punish the betrayal by directing its purchasing decisions towards products and services of other brands.

A brand that is consistent with its narrative triggers the so-called in-public emotional benefit: an advantage that the customer or potential customer perceives beyond any rational consideration (rational benefit). Thank you corporate storytelling, a sports footwear company could, for example, generate the idea that, by wearing a certain model of shoe, one can reach the peaks of excellence of the athlete at the center of the narrative.

Brand positioning (brand positioning)

Brand positioning is the way in which the brand defines itself in relation to its competitors in the reference market and represents the relevance, distinctiveness, and uniqueness of the brand in the eyes of the customer.

Based on the quality and price of the products sold, a brand must therefore decide which market segment to place itself in, and consequently choose the corporate strategy more appropriate.

Brand personality (brand identity)

Their brand personality is the way in which the brand expresses itself. The concept is linked to the archetypes of references, to its reason for existing and to the reason for its charm, to the values shared with its audience, and to the ideals of reference.

Brand design

The brand design encompasses the visual style of the brand, and the sensorial and experiential appeal of the brand (purchase, use, customer care, etc.). All elements that rightfully belong to the narration of a brand (think of the rounded corners of Apple computers or even the sound of a Coca-Cola can be opened).

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Storytelling marketing and transmedia storytelling

In storytelling marketing, brands often develop the narrative across multiple media. A story can therefore first be disseminated on online media (website, blog, social network) and then landed on offline media (television, radio, print media). It is the concept of transmedia storytelling, first formulated in 2003 by Henry Jenkins and strongly linked to the phenomenon of media convergence (which on the digital wave has brought traditional technologies such as television closer to the most innovative telecommunications technologies).

This narrative form, moving across multiple media types, integrates the user experience with new and distinct information, forcing the user to reconstruct the overall meaning of the narrative. But there’s more! The users of transmedia narration have transformed from passive subjects to active subjects, as it is now possible for the first time to contribute spontaneously to the creation and dissemination of content. Just think of the sharing of captivating content on social networks, but also of all those network users who spontaneously produce “advertising” materials for a brand (e.g. a cooking site containing only recipes that involve the use of a specific product).


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 Types of content for Storytelling

Once you have acquired the basics to manage all types of story content with ease (blog posts, articles, social posts, images, videos, info content, interactive content, podcasts, online events, webinars, and offline storytelling) you need to focus on the types of content, which are three:

  • Hero: are the large-scale content, Very expensive and disbursed in limited numbers during the year. They are aimed at an indistinct public, therefore not necessarily in target with the brand that conveys them. They are usually used for a new product launch or a seasonal campaign;
  • Hub: I am content created for the potential customer (already stimulated by the hero content) and is delivered more frequently than the previous category. This type of content capitalizes on the excitement generated by hero content to transform it into a continuous engagement. For example, blogs or in-depth videos on certain topics.
  • Hygiene: these are the contents designed for a loyal audience already tied to the brand that delivers them. The user will benefit from it after a spontaneous search on the net. These contents will allow the brand to establish an ongoing dialogue with its audience. Tutorials and how-to videos can fall into this category.

Storytelling marketing in Digital Coach

If you are interested in learning more about these topics, we invite you to enroll in our course digital storytelling, or, alternatively, to take a look at the wide range of courses offered by Digital Coach by clicking here.

Want to unleash the power of storytelling but don’t have any idea where to start? Contact us for more information!



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